Saturday, September 26, 2009

An Adventure

The day I had been awaiting for finally arrived!!  I had been running like crazy, training for my first 10k (6 mile) race since my dose of chemo three years ago.  You see, three years ago I ran the same race two weeks after my final dose.  This race was for me a celebration of life.  It was not a personal best run.  In fact, it was not even close.  I was ecstatic to finish.

Time passed and I spent a fair amount of time in the physiotherapist clinic working on some of my long term side effects involving how the drugs had impacted my muscles and the resultant issues (like my knees being pulled off track).  In the three years following my treatments my running has become somewhat sketchy.  I'm not in as good of shape, not as fast, and am carrying twenty more pounds than my previous life.    But I do run because I love it.

In the last couple of months I've been working very hard at increasing my mileage and endurance.  Last night I drove the three hours to Calgary where I met up with my best friend Jeanne, incidentally the same person who ran the Melissas with me the only other time I made the attempt.  Today we woke up and prepared to drive another hour to the stunningly beautiful town of Banff in the Canadian Rockies where our race was to occur.

Unfortunately, we had not factored into our drive time the time it would take to drop Jeanne's dog Scout off at my brother's in Cochrane (a town on the way).  Let's just say we were running tight on time.  Our adventure began with my pushing the speed limits and expressing road rage at a very erratic BMW who for some reason was taking it rather personally when anyone tried to pass him.  This made me a wee bit grumpy.

Crawling through construction we pulled into the town of Banff.  It was 10:20am.  Uh - the race started at 10:30.  I pulled into one of the public parking lots only to follow the most painfully slow driver as we wound our way to the top to discover there were no more stalls left.  I began the slow parking lot trawl looking for a spot, any spot!  Finally, parking beside the yellow painted curb we hoped for the best (no ticket) and began speed walking towards our start.  May I point out the race has begun by this point.  After a pit spot of the washroom we broke into a run.  

Watching racers running in the other direction we optimistically ran to the starting line. (About a kilometre.)  Crossing the start line, breathing heavy after our sprint I requested a walk break to catch my breath.  Yep, we walked the first part.  As in just past the start sign.  

Finally we were underway.  We ran following the odd runner in the distance.  Looping around the course I told Jeanne I thought we needed to cross the bridge and follow the big crowd we had passed earlier.  A man in a vest on a scooter pulled up and shouted at us to go under the bridge, follow the path.  So we did.  At the one mile marker we encountered one of the many sign holders.  The lady was yelling encouragement.  She shouts "Good job!  Only twelve more miles to go!!", without missing a beat I respond you mean 5, we only have 5 miles left.  Uhhh... it was at the point in conversing with some of the other runners we discovered that we were indeed running the half marathon route not the ten k route.  Yikes!!

Jeanne tossed out some ideas and we decided to keep running.  I was feeling great!  My calf that had been tormenting me in the weeks leading up to the race was silent.  I had a full tank so to speak.  At about the 4 or 5 kilometre mark I started to notice something funny.  I wasn't sure if it was the sunlight dappling through the trees or if I was seeing flashy lights.  The next darker stretch I focused on some shadows only to have my vision flickering and flashing.  

I occasionally get migraines.  My migraines have auras.  Hence the flashy lights.  Anxiety flooded my body.  As Jeanne chattered on about all our options, I worried about being in the middle of nowhere, running a half marathon and getting a migraine - with no meds, no nutrition.  I started worrying about my blood sugar crashing - I had not planned on running this far.  I can and have run 10k with no water, gels or food.  My mind ran through scenarios of me crashing in the middle of the wilderness.  The gorgeous wilderness that I was no longer enjoying.  

As the kilometres ticked past my walk breaks became a little more frequent.  I had not planned on taking walk breaks but I had also not planned on the woozy, nauseous feeling that accompany the migraine warning.  With 10 k sign in sight I opt for a serious walk break.  

My hip - which I normally don't have issues with - was seizing and cramping up.  I was trying to walk normally but failing miserably.  In the end, we walked about a kilometer before once again picking up the run.  In total we ended up doing 15 kilometers at which point we returned to the town site and said screw it and went to get nutrition.  

Gathering our goodies we returned to the car where I standing on the sidewalk began to switch out shirts, and in the backseat of the car pants.  Grabbing my purse I dug out my trusty Advil Migraine strength pills of which I promptly chugged 2.  Once upon a time I had prescription meds for the headaches but I've progressed and now can usually prevent the headache if I take the Advil quickly enough.  

After eating (I was starving) we headed home for some well deserved naps.  Hours later my headache is under control.  What should have been a simple and fun race turned into a gong show.  I ran farther than I ever have in my life and did it battling a migraine.  And I ran a personal best 10k finishing in an hour and five minutes!  Life is all about the unexpected and as Jeanne likes to say "There's plan A and then there's what really happens!"

Check out her blog on the same race at All About the Canadians.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dry Spell

Normally, the only problem I have with writing my blog is finding the time to do it, but I appear to be going through a bit of a dry spell.  My brain is empty of stories.  I have nothing to tell.  I've had a number of experiences the past few days that could be translated into stories.  My brain is just empty.

Perhaps it's because I've started a graduate course (Facilitating Communications and Understanding through Utilization Focused Evaluation), or maybe it's because I've been feeling under the weather.  It could be that I've been spending so much time training for the 10k (6miles) race this weekend that I'm just running out of things to say.  (Heh heh - get it - running... sigh...)  

I've done quite a bit.  Saturday I took the dogs to Ken's place and worked them - and they were awesome.  Tuesday I had my riding lesson and jumped a course!!  (Well, a pattern anyhow.)  Today I saddled up Whiskey and she's not lame!!!!!  You can tell she'd been lame for a long time as she's off balance and has some muscle dysfunction.  Strangely enough she didn't do her normal bucking routine.  

But no stories.... sigh.... surely my brain will get up and running sooner than later.  I hope...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

On a Dark and Windy Night...

Once upon a time, in a land as dry as the Sahara Desert, lived a girl.  This girl loved animals and spent a tremendous amount of time living, breathing and thinking about them.  She took her responsibilities very seriously.  All this work and no play made the girl very tired until one night she forgot to do her chores. 

A cold wind from the north began to blow and darkness rushed in surrounding her little farm.  Sitting in her cozy chair in her well lit house the girl gave a jolt of surprise, suddenly realizing she had not brought in the horses from the field!  Leaping up, she rushed out into the creepy dark so panicked she left the dying flashlight behind.  

Hurrying, she called for her darling four legged friends.  With the floodlights doing a meagre battle with the enveloping blackness, she began her routine of mixing up grain and supplements.  Realizing she had once again forgot to buy more oats she left the friendly well lit shed to tentatively feel her way to the cold isolated granary.  She knew she would be able to find an oat barley mix for the cows in this shed.  She would use a very small amount of this mix to put the supplements in for her pampered horses.

The granary door opened with a protesting screech.  Relentless, the girl forged on.  Taking a deep breathe she took a tentative step into the black hole.  Using the grain scoop as a sword she felt her way past stacked hay bales until she came to the grain bags.  Carefully, she reached into the bag only to discover it was the wrong type of feed.  Completely surrounded by black, she edged further into the building, with a sigh of relief she saw a faint white glow of a grain bag.  

Taking her grain scoop, she reached into the bag.  Down deep into the bag, wiggling the scoop in the search for grain.  At the very end of her reach she touched something solid.  When all of sudden the bag gave a rustle and the girl felt cold little feet run up her hand.  Giving a whole body shudder the girl grunted out "ungh, ungh" sounds while shaking her arm, all the while backing rapidly through the dark to the safety of the door.  

Shaking, she stood and looked into the building from the murky light outside.  Torn between her feelings of responsibility in feeding the supplements with her fear on little critters with cold feet she stood.  With a final shudder and shake of the hand the girl shoved the door shut and walked away.  Surely it wouldn't hurt the horses to miss getting their supplements one night?  

Feeling obligated to treat her loyal steads for coming in to their names she instead shook out some hay for them to munch on.

The moral of the story?  Do your chores during daylight!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Jumping Out of the Box

Tuesday is riding lesson day for me.  I rush to the stable as soon as the kids leave the building and get my lesson horse ready for a 4:30 lesson.  It has been a steep learning curve as I struggle with redeveloping English concepts and destroying bad habits learned as a child.  Each lesson I finished exhausted and sweaty.  And I love it!

Today a lady from Golden British Columbia joined us riding a lovely green horse.  She is spending the week riding with my coach.  She is an elite type rider, much more skilled than myself and it was wonderful to watch her.  

Last night I had been talking with my best friend, who in her impatient manner demanded when I was going to start jumping.  I exclaimed I wasn't in the least bit ready for it as I was struggling with riding on the flat.   That conversation was freakish foreshadowing for what was to come today.

Tricia asked us to warm up by trotting and cantering around.  She explained we'd be trotting ground poles.  This was new for me and I was a little bit nervous.  After a few rounds of that she upped the anty by having us canter the ground poles.  Holding on to Buddy's stubby mane with a death grip I successfully mastered (well, maybe not mastered but accomplished) that.  Tricia pulled Marie (the other 4:30 regular) and myself into the center.  We then watched as the guest rode her horse through the poles.  We watched as Tricia moved the ground poles into jump brackets.  I was thoroughly enjoying myself at this point.

I was enjoying myself until Tricia called my name and asked my to go ahead and canter the poles.  Only they weren't just poles anymore, they were jumps.  Yikes!!!  In my head I was wailing "I don't know HOW to jump!!!"  but an unwillingness to quit had me pulling to the rail and picking up the canter.  As we neared the jumps I gave myself a stern talking to.  I told myself to lift my head up, keep my eyes off the ground and to trust my wonderful lesson horse who surely knew what he was doing.  And then I grabbed on for my life.  And we flew over the jumps!  

I am now a jumper?!?  I even did it more than once today.  At the end of the lesson I told Tricia I had never done that before and that I had been scared, how I didn't think I was ready for it.  And she said, she said she knew I could do it.  That dressage complements the jumping and jumping compliments dressage and doing both will improve my riding quicker.  

All in all a very exciting and rewarding lesson today.

Hear Me ROAR!!

I am woman, hear me roar!!!  When the phone call came notifying me that they hay I was waiting for was in I immediately went toodling over to my dad to set up a time to haul it.  Dad was less than cooperative.  You see, he had made arrangements with my cousins to go golfing.  I being me did not want to wait for the following weekend to go get the hay.  And then my dad said the fateful words.  He said, "You'd better wait because you're not going to be able to stack the bales on the truck anyhow."  

That did it.  I was bound and determined to get my remaining 20 bales with or without him.  Off I went, gloves in hand and Tessa riding shotgun.  What you need to understand about me is I am the girl that does not like doing hard labour.  I'm perfectly content letting the men do the heavy lifting.  Unless of course I'm told I can't do it.  Then it's a different story!  With the help of the owner (female) I loaded the truck with my lovely 60+ pound timothy/alfalfa bales.  

Upon my arrive back home, I settle in to check my email and take a short break before going back out to work with the dogs.  Dad had promised he'd help me unload them.  What I ended up doing instead is baking a cake for my Aunt Laura who I rarely see and who would be arriving with my mom from Spruce Meadows later that day.  Next, I begin making the meal for my family, including my dad and two cousins who were out breaking a sweat at a local golf course.  Of course they were only golfing 9 holes but it was extra difficult due to the fact they had to *gasp* walk it.  (Feel the sarcasm...)  

By the time they arrive home at around 5:30 I'm finally leaving the kitchen to hit up the corrals.  Being impatient and having the sneaky feeling my bales were not going anywhere soon I hop into the truck and drive over to the sheds.  Where I begin unloading my bales of hay.  I was so proud of myself as I was able to stack them over my head which for me is a major accomplishment.  And what did the men do while I unloaded hay?  They drank beer on the deck.  You know, because they had worked so hard.

I returned to the house a sticky, sweaty, hay covered mess.  So I hop in the shower.  When I go upstairs I discover they had started to eat the dinner I made without me!!!  Teeth clenched I sit down to eat (they didn't wait for my mom or auntie either - because they were starving)!  Only to have my city soft cousin tell me how hard it was walking the hills - it really worked up his appetite.  (It's not really that hard.)  Eyes flinty I look at him and say, you know, I ran 5 miles this morning, loaded and unloaded 20 heavy square bales in addition to making your dinner today.  Don't tell me about hard work.  

I am woman hear me roar!  Let's just say I was a wee bit grumpy as the day came to a close.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


It's done.  The vet has come and gone.  We injected Whiskey today.  Normally, I am very much anti-injection.  I feel they are overused and often unnecessary.  However, in this case, Whiskey has had over 1.5 years off and is still lame.  I've done all kinds of other treatments with limited success.  

Because I'm anal retentive and wanted to see what's going on in her hock we did radiographs (x-rays).  These showed some issues around the front of her hock, which Sam thinks are likely residual inflammation from when she had the soft tissue damage a year ago spring.  Basically, these first two injections we are treating from a diagnostic point of view.  Are they helping with the lameness?  If they help, how long do the effects last?  With a lot of hope and a little luck this will fix Whiskey's lameness issue.  The flip side being the soft tissue damage was so severe and pervasive the ligaments and tendons will never recover, causing her to permanently be lame.  

With my fingers crossed I'll sit the next four days waiting, waiting for the chance to start legging her up, waiting to see how well this injection experiment works.  And hoping.  Hoping that I'll have my Whiskey girl back and in fighting form.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Isn't It Ironic?

Isn't it ironic how hay is priced?  This year has been a very tough year for farmers in much of my province.  We have had record lack of rainfalls each month.  My area is a genuine drought area right now which is very unusual for us.  This morning my dad and I drove out to a local farmer's to purchase square bales for my horses this coming winter.  This hay looked very good on paper.  On paper the farmer was asking $6.00 a bale and he said they were around 75 pounds a bale with a 35% alfalfa mix with the remaining being timothy.  Sounds pretty good doesn't it?  Unfortunately not so good in real life.  In real life it's about 50 pounds a bale and grass hay.  It's has some dust (but anything coming from this area will - it's just too dry) and a lot of it's bleached out.  The quality of the bales is not consistent.  Doesn't sound quite as good now, does it?

I ended up purchasing 50 bales, mostly because I know people are desperate for hay and it was cheap.  I'll purchase another 20 bales from a local hay broker that will have been hauled in from elsewhere and will end up paying $7.50 a bale.  This got me to thinking.  How is it when the hay is the crappiest we end up paying the most for it?  You would think the quality nice hay would be the stuff you'd pay for, but when we have quality hay we generally have a lot of hay making it cheaper.  Strange isn't it?

My horses will be fine this winter.  I've been very frugal with my pasture so unless we get a big dump deep snow they can forage for a good bit of the winter.  (There's lots of hard grasses such as Timothy and Fescue in the field.)  Obviously, I'll closely monitor their body condition and feed as required.  When I feed the grass hay I'll add alfalfa pellets or cubes, adding in flax seed and a complete feed if needed.  

The sheep will go back to Ken's to winter and will do just fine there.  I'll pick up a fresh batch in the spring.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Roxy Update

And we have a verdict....  it appears an abscess was indeed making her lame.  When I changed her poultice this afternoon there was a small soft hole in between the bulbs of her heel.  There were also two pusy marks at the heel end of her frog valley.  Does anyone know what that's actually called?  (Just taking a wild guess that frog valley isn't it - anyhow the dip part that you pick out.)  Oh and her diaper smelled rank!  

I've got to admit the Epsom salt poultice sure does work slick!  We put another one on her today just to help keep her hole clean and to pull out any residual pus inside her hoof.  

Saturday, September 5, 2009

What Is Hope?

The school I work at and spend countless hours in has a hope focus this year.  We've always had character education focuses that change with the months.  Things like perseverance, respect, caring, etc.  These are things we are expected to teach the children in our classrooms.  This year things are different.  This year we are instructing "hope".

As all staff have been instructed to create "Hope bags" I've felt a bit of quandary, what precisely is hope?  I've always been spiritual.  My stint at the Cross Cancer Institute has only deepened that belief.  Is hope different than faith?  When I think back to that time in my life I remember the man in the bed beside me, and his wife sitting beside him holding his hand while he received treatment.  He had terminal brain cancer and they were selling their house, pulling their children out of school and traveling the world as a family, spending time as a family before his time ran out.  Before he became to weak to be a husband, brother, father, son.  Is that hope?  I know it taught me my lot in life isn't that horrible.  I was, after all, one of the lucky ones.  I know I will forever remember this man and his wife and their strength of spirit.  Positivity emanated from them.

Is hope a child whose future looms bright in front of them?  Is hope your family?  I think back to my grandmother, who was abandoned by her family and raised in a convent, who went on to lead a productive and positive life.  Her strength, grace and faith - is this hope?  Or is hope the cycle of the seasons?  Where life renews itself endlessly.  

Tonight I became a believer in hope.  I may not fully understand what it is but as I sat and watched my dogs play with such vigor and spirit, I knew I could believe in hope.  I watched Joey playing and saw the absolute joy in which he existed.  The look on his face staring up at me positively beamed with unconditional love.  And I knew what hope is.  Hope is a dog whose faith in mankind has been crushed yet still has the ability to love a man (or woman in this case).  Surely that must be hope.

Beautiful Day

It's a beautiful day!  On Thursday and Friday we had what feels like the first rain in years.  Last night, in between showers, and on our first day in a week that wasn't sweltering, I worked the dogs.  Joe and Reba took turns putting their skills to the test against the sheep. My lovely little Joey is growing in leaps and bounds and was a superstar!  I'm so proud of how far he's come!  Reba was a wonderful listener who gave me lots of try.  

This morning, Tessa, Reba, Joey and I went for a run down the road.  Here's a picture of Joe (I've taken to calling him Joey.) taking a drink after playing in the field from the automatic waterer.

On Tuesday, Roxy came in from the field lame.  I pulled her into a smaller pen and gave her bute for a couple of days.  After which she was "off" but not fully lame so she rejoined her horsey buddies in the bigger pen.  Today, I had tied her up (I like to tie up my young horses as I feel it teaches them patience.) and worked with the three horses leaving her tied.  I noticed she was "toeing" the ground - meaning she wasn't putting full weight on her foot.  Feeling it I thought it was carrying some heat.  Hopefully it's only an abscess.  I'm treating it as though it is by putting an Epsom salt poultice on  her foot.  

I mixed 1/2 cup Epsom with 1 cup oats (porridge) and added enough boiling water to create a thick mix.  (The water will cool by the time it actually makes it on to the foot and you want it hot.)  Next, I cleaned out her hoof, poured the mixture into a diaper and placed it with the mixture on the bottom of her foot.  To hold it in place I Vet Wrap the hoof and to keep her from wearing through I place Duct Tape on the bottom parts of the bandage.  I'm very careful to not wrap where the leg is as to not cut off her circulation.  I'll leave this on for 24 hours before changing it.  If it is an abscess it'll pull the pus out (hopefully) the bottom of the hoof providing relief.  And if it's not, it'll just feel good.  Because it needs to stay dry she's in a small pen in a shed where I'll keep her until I know what's going on with her.  If all else fails, the vet is coming out next Saturday to treat Whiskey so I can always have her take a look too.

Here's a picture of Roxy chowing down on hay with her wrapped foot.

Speaking of tied up, Izzy had her first tying up lesson today and was awesome.  She walked, hit the end of the rope and gave to the pressure.  No freak outs or shenanigans.  The worst thing she did was towards the end of the session she was pawing a bit.

Here's a picture of her tied to the post (the biggest one I've got - just in case!)

Whiskey has been off for a very long time, so I thought I'd start getting her into riding mode by saddling her.  While Whiskey is normally a super horse I was a wee bit apprehensive as to how she'd take being saddled.  Of course she was fine, it was more my nerves than anything.  We didn't do anything.  I just saddled her and left her tied up saddled while I worked with the other horses.

Here's a picture of her standing patiently.

Earlier in the summer I had purchased a yearling sized show halter for Roxy and Izzy.  While it's a bit large on them right now I've included a picture of Roxy modeling it.

It was a beautiful day.  I've been working ridiculous hours and today I went out, enjoyed the sunshine, and spent the day working with my animals.  How can a girl go wrong with that?  Gotta love it!

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Silent Creeper

My beloved Tessa is getting older.  We've been working very hard all summer at regaining the condition she lost when she took the time off for her surgery and the following rehab.  It comes as a bit of shock for me when she doesn't want to run anymore.  When I go for my runs (4 miles) down the road I've started doing a loop the brings me past my driveway at the 3 mile mark.  Tessa will pull into the drive and wait for me to finish the remaining mile and return.  

She's also slower.  At first I kept thinking my timing was off when we worked the sheep.  We just were not catching those break away runners.  It was around Calgary when she had to hurry and catch some that I realized it wasn't my timing but her.  She is just not as fast as she once was.  I've even begun to notice it when we run.  Where she once would have led the way with her tail flagging in the air, I've now taken to stopping and calling for her to catch up.

As I write I can feel my eyes well up with tears.  I don't want her to be getting older.  To be slowing down.  But I know I have no choice in this matter.  In October the professional pictures of Tessa will arrive at my house.  I must admit I had been feeling a bit guilty at spending so much money on something so frivolous, but now, now I'm happy, for it means I'll have Tessa captured in time forever.